by Louie Chan / Image: Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship
Co-founded by The Masters Tournament and The R&A, the 11th edition of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) returned for the third time to Mainland China at Sheshan GC, Shanghai. Hong Kong’s top three amateurs, Ben Wong, Leon D’Souza and Terrence Ng participated in this prestigious tournament in late September.
Ben Wong finished as the highest-ranking Hong Kong player at the 2019 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship
The AAC has progressed hugely since it was first contested 10 years ago when only a handful of players in the field were within the top-500 on the WAGR. However, going into the 11th edition this year, there were 12 players from the Asia Pacific region in the top-100.
The best amateur golfers in the region teed up and competed to earn a place in both the 2020 Masters and the 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s.
Ben Wong finished as the highest-ranking Hong Kong player at 40th with seven over par. The former U.S. Junior Players Champion made six birdies in the final round to finish with a brilliant one under 71. He scored 68 in the first round to lead the field briefly, however, he struggled in the back nine in both rounds 2 and 3, losing too much ground to his opponents.
“Overall, it was a good week for our players, especially for Ben (Wong) and Leon (D’Souza), both of whom are studying in the U.S. They had to fly in from the States to compete and only had two days to prepare. However, this is very common for professional players, so it was a good experience for all three of them, as they look towards turning professional in the future,” said Tim Tang, High Performance Manager of the HKGA. “The AAC is the most prestigious event for the best amateurs in the Asia-Pacific region. I am proud of Terrence’s (Ng) performance. This was his last AAC tournament, and he really pushed himself. Even though he was off a bit from the tee and struggled to hit the fairway, he had the mental toughness to eventually make the cut.”
Ng finished at 62nd in a total of 308.
Leon D’Souza, the youngest local golfer to make the cut at the Hong Kong Open, unfortunately missed the cut after two rounds. “Leon struggled similarly as Terrence. Most of the fairways in Sheshan are pretty narrow and Leon can hit far off the tee with his fast clubhead speed. Once he was off the fairway by 10 to 20 yards, all he could do was to chip out of the thick rough. It’s tough for players to score well on this course if they can’t keep the ball on the fairway,” commented Tang.
China’s Lin Yuxin brought immense cheers from his home fans when he birdied the par 5 18th twice in a playoff to beat defending champion and world No.1 Takumi Kanaya to become the second two-time winner of the AAC. It was the perfect homecoming for Lin, who earned an invitation to the 2020 Masters Tournament and the 149th Open at Royal St George’s. After shifting his home base to Los Angeles last month where he is now a freshman at the University of Southern California, it was a poignant moment for the 18 year-old Chinese star, who had his father on the bag during
Lin started slowly in the final round with a bogey on the par-4 No. 1, but the Beijing native quickly recovered with two consecutive birdies, then unleashed three in a row from the sixth onwards to reach 10 under par at the turn. Kanaya was solid throughout the day and made up for three bogeys with six birdies to keep his title defence alive until the very end.
During the same week, Matthew Cheung and Isaac Lam topped the leaderboard after two qualifying rounds at the Qualifying Tournament to secure starting places in the highly anticipated Hong Kong Open. Cheung shot a brilliant 63 in round 1 and finished in a total of 131, 7 shots less than second-placed Lam, whose rounds of 66 and 72 left him with a two-shot lead over third-placed Derek Fung.
Hosted by the Hong Kong Golf Club, the Hong Kong Open will continue to play a decisive role in shaping the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit as it is one of the last few remaining events on the Tour schedule. Major Champion Henrik Stenson has confirmed he will make his debut at the Hong Kong Open, with the Swede set to join defending champion Aaron Rai in a star-studded field in the opening event of the European Tour’s 2020 Race to Dubai, from November 28 to December 1.
Stenson became the first male Scandinavian Major winner when he triumphed in the 145th Open at Royal Troon three years ago and will be aiming to add to his 11 European Tour wins when he tees off at the Hong Kong Golf Club for the 61st edition of the SAR’s longest-standing professional
“I’m excited to play the Hong Kong Open for the first time in my career,” said Stenson, the current World Number 37. “It’s hard to believe that I haven’t played this tournament before because I’ve always heard great things about the golf course, the city and the fans, so it’s nice to kick off my 2020 Race to Dubai season with something a little bit different.”